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April 23, 2003

Developing Joshuas or Raising Judges

Judges 2:18-19
And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.

This is such an interesting time in the nation of Israel's history. Moses and Joshua are now dead, along with all from thier generation (Moses' prior to entry into the promised land, Joshua's since the entry and conquest of it). Vs. 10 says there was now a generation who didn't know the LORD or thework which He had done for them. (This reminds me that the church is always only one generation away from extinction, but that's another issue). What is interesting to me is that the LORD raises up leaders when we don't.

Moses had invested himself into Joshua early on. Joshua had peers that partnered with him (e.g. Caleb), and although I may be overlooking someone, I can't think of anyone that Joshua had prepared to hand the baton off to. Maybe Joshua was like many leaders - so busy with the tasks at hand that he thought leaders were being developped because they were involved in the process of taking the land. But being charged with a duty does not a leader make. I'm reminded how when Moses would go to talk with God, Joshua was around, sometimes even staying behind at the tabernacle.

This is a crucial issue because as I read about the conquest of Canaan, it was never completely finished according to the Lord's directions - drive out all the people in the land. I wonder if Joshua so focused on accomplishing the task that he never thought that this would take longer than his lifetime to accomplish? Most of what God calls us to do as leaders is beyond not only our ability to accomplish on our own, but I'm thinking it's fulfillment will take longer than our lifetime.

I'm grateful that God will always raise up leaders. But there is always a cost. In this case, it was a generation of people who didn't know the LORD or His works. What's the cost for me? It's my desire that New Horizons will have an impact on our community that lasts far beyond my lifetime, until He comes (which ever happens first). I better start developping some Joshuas.

Developing Joshuas or Raising Judges

Judges 2:18-19
And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.

This is such an interesting time in the nation of Israel's history. Moses and Joshua are now dead, along with all from thier generation (Moses' prior to entry into the promised land, Joshua's since the entry and conquest of it). Vs. 10 says there was now a generation who didn't know the LORD or thework which He had done for them. (This reminds me that the church is always only one generation away from extinction, but that's another issue). What is interesting to me is that the LORD raises up leaders when we don't.

Moses had invested himself into Joshua early on. Joshua had peers that partnered with him (e.g. Caleb), and although I may be overlooking someone, I can't think of anyone that Joshua had prepared to hand the baton off to. Maybe Joshua was like many leaders - so busy with the tasks at hand that he thought leaders were being developped because they were involved in the process of taking the land. But being charged with a duty does not a leader make. I'm reminded how when Moses would go to talk with God, Joshua was around, sometimes even staying behind at the tabernacle.

This is a crucial issue because as I read about the conquest of Canaan, it was never completely finished according to the Lord's directions - drive out all the people in the land. I wonder if Joshua so focused on accomplishing the task that he never thought that this would take longer than his lifetime to accomplish? Most of what God calls us to do as leaders is beyond not only our ability to accomplish on our own, but I'm thinking it's fulfillment will take longer than our lifetime.

I'm grateful that God will always raise up leaders. But there is always a cost. In this case, it was a generation of people who didn't know the LORD or His works. What's the cost for me? It's my desire that New Horizons will have an impact on our community that lasts far beyond my lifetime, until He comes (which ever happens first). I better start developping some Joshuas.

May 8, 2003

Heart & Mind

1 Samuel 2:35
Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind.

What is it to be a faithful priest? The Lord defines it here as someone who does what is in His heart and mind. It is someone who understands God's love for people and allows it to shape our interaction with those within our circle of care. It is someone who wants to know the mind of God for people and situations.

What I am struck by again is the lack of training that a leader gives in these areas ("doing according to God's heart and mind") to those under his care. Eli's son were so wicked that they were cursed to death. Since God couldn't use Hophni and Phineas, he had to start again with Samuel. The first thing Samuel learns is to hear God's voice. Funny thing is, he learns this from Eli. Did Eli train his sons in this? I don't think so, for this reason. 3:8 says "Eli percieved that the LORD had called the boy." God speaking to Eli must not have been a regular occurrance since it took Samuel 3 times coming to him before Eli caught on. If it wasn't happening to Eli, how could he train his sons in it? There is no way to serve God and his people, to know God's heart and mind, without learning how to hear Him. Eventually, Samuel begins to speak for God. He became not only a priest, but a prophet (and judge) as well.

Not only am I a pastor of a church, but I am also the priest of my home. In fact, all who are Christ's are "kings and priests" (I Peter 2:9). So I would assume that we all have have a responsibility to be faithful, doing what is in the heart and mind of God.

Lord, I want to know your heart and mind.

May 14, 2003

Lifelong Consequences of Disobedience

I Samuel 15:35
And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

There are huge consequences for a leader's disobedience. Some specific items to note in this situation w/ Saul.
1) His unwillingness to lead (v. 9). Instead of obeying God's specific instruction regarding dealing with the Amalekites, it says that Saul and the people were "unwilling" to follow those instructions.
2) Listening to the opinion of men instead of the voice of God (v. 24). Saul's excuse was that he feared the people and obeyed thier voice. There is a place and time to recieve and respond to the popular opinion. but it can never override our responsibility to obey God's voice.
3) Justifying disobedience (v. 20). Keeping the king of the Amalekites alive was an attempt by Saul to exercise his poer. As as leader, I have a tendancy to do whatever will make me look impressive to others.
4) Needing public affirmation (v. 30). No matter what his motives were for his disobedience, Saul wanted to keep up his appreance in front of the people. He asked Samuel to go w/ him to worship, probably more as a sign to affirm Saul in the eyes of the people (especially after Samuel had just told him that the kingdom was being taken away from him).

Saul's actions (which started out small but became increasingly consequential as more excuses were piled on) resulting in the severing of his relationship w/ Samuel. Saul's disobedience caused a weight to be placed on Samuel's life for his lifetime. And most of all, God regretted making Saul king.

Lord, thanks for your grace that covers my failures. I want to live in it. But I also want to contend for obedience so that I don't sever any relationships, burden my inner circle, or cause You to regret choosing me.

May 19, 2003

Pressed Into Action

I Samuel 24: 4,5,9
Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’ ” And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe.

A few days ago I wrote about Saul listening to the opinion of the people which led to a direct disobedience. It had huge consequences. But what happens when a leader gets what seems to be good advice for the current situation from those he trusts? How do you know what to do? In this situation, David doesn't need to impress this group of men. In fact they have comitted themselves and are incredibly loyal to him. Thier adivce is not only well intentioned, but appears to them to be God's solution to thier problem. And God has not given any specific directions one way or another.

It's so easy to jump to a quick fix, especially if everyone seem to be on board. So what is a leader to do? One thing I admire about David in this situation is that He didn't send someone else to do the hard stuff. He could have sent someone else to kill Saul. But if he had, it is doubtful that the outcome would have been the same (Saul's life being spared). I wonder if the Lord requires of us to be involved in the hard stuff because its a test to help us see what we're made of.

Back to the real question - what is a leader to do when everyone is watching; when people are trusting you to "do to him as it seems good to you."? You have to know when you have crossed your own integrity line. Cutting Saul's robe doen't seem to be a big deal, except that to David it was. I think David was troubled when he realized his natural inclination was to literally take things into his own hands. I know I have that tendency. How many times have I, for whatever reason, tried to resolve a situation being pressured by good advice and imposing it as God's permission to take action in a situation, only to feel remorseful later. Not that I had violated anyone or anything else except my own integrity and humility.

Lord help me to be a man who knows what my lines are. A man who know the difference between walking by faith and walking in presumption.

June 3, 2003

Skeletons in the Closet

2 Samuel 22:13-14
So he brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there; and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged. 14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father. So they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.

The story begins with a famine in Israel. The country is united again under David’s leadership. But just when things seem to be getting back to normal, famine hits. David goes to the Lord to find out what the problem is. V. 1: “And the LORD answered, ‘It is because of Saul…because he killed the Gibeonites.’”

Sometimes as a leader you find yourself dealing with problems you did not cause. You have inheirited somebody else’s mess. It often follows after having to clean up one of your own. What happened was Saul was not to mess with this people because they were descendants of the Amorites (the people that tricked Joshua into a treaty during the conquest of the Promised Land). Saul got a little fired up and sought to drive them out of the land to earn favor with the people. So now, all these generations later, this mess is in David’s lap.

David goes to the people to find out how to make things right (He didn’t need God’s permission or wait for His direction to find out a possible solution. Sometimes a leader must get the right information before God will give His directions). As most people do, the Gibeonites wanted blood. Really, they wanted honor restored, which is really the issue for most folks. David did what they asked Him to do.

But David didn’t just leave it at that. In order to bring complete closure to the situation, he needed to restore honor to Saul’s house as well or it would come to haunt him later. As a leader, most of the time we stop short of really following through all the way. Things remain unresolved and it will get us later. David didn’t let it happen. In fact he used the situation to restore other things which had been left undone. The Philistines still had Saul and Johnathan’s remains as a memorial of thier victory over Israel. David could not leave the first king’s remains in he hands of an enemy. He got all of Saul’s family’s remains and laid them to rest in their ancestral home.

It’s hard to clean up after someone else. It’s even harder to honor someone who caused the problem. But as long as things are left undone, there will be famine in some area of our leadership. We don’t only need to take care of business making things right with people, but clean the closet out of the skeletons and lay them to rest with honor and respect. Then God will heed the prayer for the land (v. 14).

June 9, 2003

Unless The Lord Builds The House

Psalm 127:1-2
Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of
sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Yesterday was the end of a forty day fast. I began on May 1 and planned to conclude on Pentecost Sunday. Although I try to do a couple day fast every year, this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done (my previous long was 3 days). Today and for the next couple of weeks I’m going to spend time processing this experience; what I’ve learned, how I’ve changed, and the new direction the Lord has given me. What is interesting was yesterday’s service. I had an energy and passion for our church that had been missing for almost a year. Last week at our Saturday night prayer Jayme shared an illustration from her life that God had used to show her that the Lord was doing something new in our church. After yesterday’s service, many people affirmed Jayme’s impression.

So I begin reading in 1 Kings this morning. Today’s scheduled reading was the story of Solomon’s building the temple. 6:12-13 says, “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” Interesting. Then I flip to Acts, and begin to read Stephen’s message to the High Priest, giving my attention to his description of Abraham’s faith - He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. 5 And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. (7:4-5)
I began to reflect on Jayme and my call to Irvine. We had no family here, no right to claim this land as our own. No big financial resources or promise of security. Only a clear direction that this was God’s will for us – to stake our claim in this land and to receive it as an inheritance.

Then I turn to today’s Psalm and I am reminded that God is building this “house” of New Horizons. On my first day of this new season, I feel like there are 3 directives from the reading today that should serve as new boundaries for my life;
1) Not to get consumed with what I am building (1 Kings 6). God reminds Solomon to keep his priorities right. Obedience is the most important action to God honoring His word.
2) Not to be preoccupied with what I think should be happening (Acts 7). Even though it seems like nothing is happening (at least anything that I, or that I am afraid anyone else, would judge as significant – just kind of walking around the wilderness), God’s promise doesn’t change. I am too often concerned with short-term survival while God is establishing a long-term heritage.
3) Not to be concerned with what I am doing (Psalms 127). Too often I take too much responsibility for my own “success” which only results in frustration and anxiety. All my hard work means nothing if I am not partnering with what God is doing in and through my life.

So it is the start of a new season. A time to let go. A time to press on. And a time to let God do His thing - and accept His invitation to join Him.

August 5, 2003

In Jeff We Trust

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Relevance. It's the buzz word in the church today. It's the responsibility of the church to connect to eternal truth using communication methods that our culture understands. but there is one thing more important than relevance - power. Movie clips and drama vignettes are helpful tools to communicate the Gospel. Music styles and atmosphere help people to experience God's presence. Accountability groups and recovery minstries help people to face the issues created by the residue of sin. These things are very important and part of the care we should provide for our community. But in my situation, as much as we have tried to meet these needs at NH, I feel like they have been more about human wisdom. What I really want to see is the demonstration of God's power. It is the only thng that can radically transform people's lives.

But for this to happen, there is a weakness that I must embrace. It is the reality that I am not as smart as I think I am as a leader. I must be more committed to knowing Him in the "power of the resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3:10) than proving to be an entertaining and impressive communicator. In 3 years, I've tried to convince people to put thier faith in me as a leader. Today I'm reminded that I want them to put thier faith in the power of God.

Lord, would you please visit our lives in your grace and power? Let it be according to our faith.

August 11, 2003

Thoughts from Nehemiah 1-3

Here's some observations that jumped out in today's reading:

1:6 - ...I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned.

Sometimes as a leader you have to take responsibility for things you may not have been directly involved in. I learned a great lesson from Nehemiah in this regard. Instead of expressing his frustration with God for allowing Irsael to remain in capivity, or making his request for favor from God for his project, Nehemiah too on the responsibility of acknowledging the consequences of the disobedience of his people, even including himself personally with thier fault. Withou placing blame or accusations, he acknowledge the fact of sin and humbled himself on behalf of the people to set them right before God.

2:10 - ...a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.

A year ago I had heard Matthew Barnett fo the Dream Center in Los Angeles speak about thier ministry in the inner ity. He used this passage to call pastors to "seek the well-being of the people." Reading today, I am reminded that is my assignment. Not to be concerned with being hip, not to be "big," not to be concerned with recognition or innovation. Only to be concerned with the "well-being" of the people entrusted to my care - to serve them and meet thier needs as together we build the Kingdom of God.

2:17-18 - Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.

When you take care of things in private (confession - 1:6) and you motivation is pure ("well-being" - 2:10) then a compelling vision has substance. People will engage because tey can trust the leader. This is not something tangible that can be documented by strategic plans and mission statements. But there is something communicated sub-conciously by the integrity of the leader to the people. They sense that they are not being used or taken advantage of. They fel that the leader has thier best interests at heart. When this kind of trust exsists, then people will respond with, "Let us rise up and build."

August 20, 2003

Craftsmanship

1 Corinthians 12:28-31
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

I've been challenged in my assumptions of what a pastor is - what a pastor does, is responsible for, etc. Althought I haven't quite sorted it all out to my complete satisfaction, today I am reminded if this important fact: God decides who is and who isn't. He appoints these. My greatest asset personal as a leader is the fact that I have been chosen by God to serve His church in this function.

Obviously this is not something to use as a sledgehammer when facing conflict or challenge. It is though a solid foundation upon which the confidence to fulfill my role rests. So then there seems to be this whole spiritual toolbox from which we are able to choose from. Like most guys, I am infatuated with power tools - drillls, saws, air hammers, etc. - what ever tool can to it the quickest and most powerfully. These are the other "gifts" that I desire. But it isn't always about fast and big. At some point quality, craftsmanship, becomes the issue. This is the more excellent way.

I watch the care and attention to detail that is the real "tool" of artisans and craftsmens, whether they be potters, furnituremakers, homebuilders. It's not only the eventual product that is important. It's thier love of the materials they use, thier love of the process, that is thier motivation. Pastoring is hard sometimes because the process can be hard. The materials you are given to work with (in yourself as well as those you shepherd) may not have been your first choice. But the skill, the excellence is shown in the way it is handled and what is produced more that the raw material you begin with.

I want the best gifts, to have the best tools and best materials. But that doesn't guarantee what is produced is excellence. Excellence is produced when love, for the product and the process, is the motivation.

"...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Lord, don't let me fail in what you've appointd me to do.

October 1, 2003

No One To Care

Philippians 2:20
For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.

I think leaders/pastors feel this way often - that there isn't anyone to share the load of caring for the people God has given them responsibility for. Many people want the title and recognition that comes with leading. Most of us desire the recognition without considering the responsibility. Having served as an associate for many years I would admit that I didn't understand the full weight of responsibility to care for people. I wonder if my my former pastor felt about me like Paul did about the "leaders" already in Phillipi.

I hope the pastor I served considered me a Timothy - someone who served with him in the gospel, someone whom the people I served knew my character (v. 22). At the very least, I hoped I was an Epaphroditus - a fellow worker and soldier, faithful to serve (v. 25-30).

The lesson for me today is what to look for in people to raise up in leadership. Paul didn't feel that he had anyone he could trust to care for the Philippians. His concern centered around one issue - the "leaders" in Phillipi were more concerned with themselves than they were the things of Jesus. That's a good insight in identifying co-laborers - Are they for themselves, their own promotion, their own advancement, their own needs, or are they seeking the things that produce Christ-likeness in themselves and others?

Lord, let me not seek my own good, but let me seek after You and the things that concern You.

February 20, 2004

LWI (Leading while intoxicated)

Leviticus 10:8-11
Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: 9 "Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, 10 that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, 11 and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses."

One of the responsibilities of "priesthood" is to be prepared to "distinguish between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean." We cannot be impaired or under the influence of anything that could hinder our ability to perform what is our sacred responsibility, even by things that are acceptable in everyday life.

I wonder what things hinder pastors' abilities to exercise sound judgment. There are many things that can be intoxicating such as power and influence. We can be indiscretionate about our own personal purity, allowing small things to defile us like some of the stuff on TV or on the web that just sneaks in. It happens all the time in my life. I must pay more attention and not be so casual about the responsibility I have been entrusted with.

Lord, help me never to dishonor the privledge of serving you.

May 18, 2004

Made Mighty

1 Samuel 22:2
And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.

Distressed, indebted, discontented. Not exactly the group of people you’d choose to build a kingdom with. In addition, you’re responsible for your family who is now fearful for their lives (how to deal with that is a whole other issue). David, who had experienced many victories and had served Saul faithfully, is respected and admired by many (18:30). Still, the only people who gather to him are the 3 d’s – the people who are frustrated with life.

Over these years it does seem like that’s the kind of people who have gathered at NH. They might not have come to us in that immediate condition, nevertheless they often find themselves fitting this description. It seems like a lot of work, especially when you are fighting for your own survival.

The bigger picture is that these people are also the source of David’s “mighty men.” These people become warriors and stand with him through his own challenges. “Mighty men” are not found, they are made, or rather healed, restored, delivered. It is the process of coming out that equips them for the future.

Lord, let it be at NH that we become a mighty people.

May 21, 2004

Doing Things Right or Doing the Right Things?

Proverb 21:5
The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

Last night we were making some plans for the summer - schedules, activities, etc. For some reason, it always seems like we are pressed for time in our planning for the church. Often it seems like without the right amount of lead time our plans fall flat. It seems like it shouldn't be that hard to facilitate ministry in a smaller church. I find it to be really challenging. We often do things in a rush, incomplete, and not completely followed through.

I think diligence has to do with not just doing things right, but doing the right things. Maybe we've not been doing the right things...

Lord, let us know what the right things are and help me move beyond the urgent to the intentional - the things that lead to plenty.

June 11, 2004

God's Choice - A person, not a place

1 Kings 8:15-16
"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said, 16 'Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built for my Name to be there, but I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.'

Since the exodus and the building of the tabernacle, there as been no permanent location for the nation to gather for worship. Even under the Joshua and the judges that followed there was no specific structure built to be the central gathering place. As a theocracy, I would think that the first issue would have been to establish a permanent place for worship around which to build the nation. Instead, God waited to find a leader.

Although the desire for a king came from the people, we know that God chose David to lead and unify the nation. David then chose the location of his throne. This is an interesting idea for me as a church planter. I felt like I chose Irvine because of what I felt God wanted to do in this city. This passage suggests that it doesn't matter so much about the location as much as the fact that God chose me to shepherd and to lead people.

This has implications for the way we develop leaders. It isn't about the "places" of ministry (programs and needs) in a local church as much as it is identifying those God has chosen to lead and serve a people. It's not always about the need, whether it's a place for God's or in our case a kind of ministry or program. It always about finding the right people first, to whom He will give specific directions on how to serve the need.

Lord, help me look for the right people who you then will put in the right place.

October 3, 2006

Just Do It

Ezra 9:1; 10:4
9:1 - When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
10:4 - "...Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it."

The two sides of leadership have to do with not only setting direction and providing vision, but also holding people accountable to the values of the community. Most leaders (at least me) find thier value and source of energy when engaged with the creative side of leadership; dreaming, visionizing, directing. One of the energy drainers is management; supervision of people and accountability. This passage is a great reminder of the responsibility of leadership, especially this second side. The issue is described in Chapter 9, and Ezra's person response to it completes the remainder of the chapter. The begining of chapter 10 tells of the leaders coming to Ezra and calling him to take action. There's three leadership thoughts in vs. 4.

1) The hard stuff is the leader's. No one else is responsible to deal with the issue, nor will anyone else be accountable for the entire group. Ezra's "management team" gives thier report and tell Ezra what they expect of him. The first thing they remind him is that only he can deal with the issue. Leadershi...eeping up and doing the hard stuff.

2) Make sure that your team is with you. Many times a leader is tempted to take action before his team is ready. Somehow, they much be allowed to share the weight of the issue which will cause them to look to you. Ezra didn't rush into anything, but patiently waited for the elders and leaders of the nation to realize that something must be done, and that only Ezra could take care of it. When this takes place, a leader has the weight of everyone behind him and has allowed concesnsus to take place. Now everyone will own the course of action brought by his decision.

3) Just do it. There comes a time when any more waiting become detrimental. When it's time to act, it's time to act. The issue won't just go away. In fact, it often gets worse. Any hesitancy will cause those with you to begin to become frustrated. Be courageous! Take action.

Lord, help me to be the kind of leader that does what needs to be done, not only what I like or want to do. Help me lead my family and those you've placed under my responsibility with courage and obedience.

November 15, 2006

What Causes Me To Stumble

James 3:1-2 (ESV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

Reading this passage this morning, the events of two weeks ago immediately came to mind. These events prove was James syas earlier in his letter about about the process of sin ... "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (1:14-15). My point is not to discect this tragic event. Instead it really is to examine my own life - what is it that trips me up?

Today's passage notes that there are many ways we stumble. It's like an infant learning how to walk. And even after learning how to walk, who hasn't tripped over something they haven't seen, or lost thier balance for some inexplecibale reason (both of which are useually harmless and is cause for laughter and a little humility). But it is our words, especially that of a pastor/teacher that if we're not careful, really set us up for a fall.

How many times have I expressed my "intentions" that others have heard as a commitment. When it doesn't come to pass (which is most often the case with my intentions,much to my regret) I've dissaponted the listener and left them with unmet expectations. As a husband, a dad, and a pastor, the most important thing I can do is to be a man of my word. In order to do this, I must consider carefully what I say. I'm not talking about less transpanrency for my own protection. I am talking about the appropriate judgement of my character by those I'm responsible for if I don't follow through on the words that I speak. For mew this has less to do with what I teach in the pulpit, and more with the conversations I have in my day to day life. I want my "yes" to be "yes." Lord, help me to set a watch over my words. I desire for Your Word to perfect me,and my words to reflect what You are doing in me.

June 27, 2007

The End of A Season

This week my wife and I are in Solvang for what has been an annual event for the past few years. I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for my tribe since the fall of 2000. It's been a very tumultuous season in our movement. The BoD has had to navigate a major transition in denominational leadership, new financial structuring and reporting, the establishment of a foundation to fund worldwide evangelism, and currently we're developing an educational strategy that may ultimately result in a national university system along with a world wide process to train pastors and ministers. I'm proud of the work we've done and the direction we're headed. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the movement that I've been a part of my entire life, but my term has concluded and this week is my last meeting as a board member. Last night we were honored for our service, but I am the one who has been honored to serve.

July 2, 2007

A Whispered Question

1 Kings 19:15-17 (NIV)
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.

Conversations with God are interesting interactions. Elijah's hiding out in a cave. He hears the voice of God asking him what he's doing there. Elijah explains his situation. God responds by "passing by," and speaks to Elijah in a whisper. He hears again God asking him, "what are you doing here?" And Elijah gives the same response he did earlier. I feel like that happens to me; God asks me a question, twice, but I give the same answer. You'd think that if He repeats the question, we'd figure out we need to give a different answer. But I don't usually, and neither does Elijah in this situation. God gives Elijah an assignment.

The most interesting part to me is not the assignment to anoint kings. It's the directive God gives Elijah to find his own successor. First of all, who's want this job anyway? Elijah's hiding in a cave out of fear for his own life. Additionally, Elijah's in the "prime" of his career. I had never noticed before that in the "still, small voice," God gives assignments (e.g. Moses and the bush). To his credit, Elijah doesn't seek out the "glory" job first of finding kings. He went from there to find his successor Elisha.

My lessons for today:
- If God repeats the same question, I should give a different answer.
- When God whispers, it usually involves an assignment.
- Obedience is about finding successors before anointing kings.

December 10, 2008

A Calm and Quiet Soul

Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I had lunch with a long time buddy of mine yesterday. He happens to pastor a church that has experience wonderful growth over the past 8 years. We enjoy each other's company and process life and ministry together. I was sharing with him about some leadership struggles I was experiencing and feeling a little paralyzed from not knowing what to do. His response was encouraging, but direct. His comment was that I see things at such a macro level, that I can tend to overcomplicate things. It can be like trying to get to step 5 before completing step 2. I have a tendancy to try to get to the desired result without completing the entire process. His words resonated with me, and today's reading in Psalms affirmed this sense.

I have a tendancy to be overly concerned with "great things." I like "deep" and "profound" thinking. Vision and strategy are all things that stoke my fire. But these things can create a discontent in my soul. The Lord wants to break me from, wean me from continually geting ahead of myself. I've got to break my dependency to being on "the cutting edge." This means I also have to care a little less about what people think of me and the persona I must be trying to project. I must be content with what is in front of me. I must be focused on what He has told me to do and see it through, without getting distracted by my own need for recognition("haughtiness") or ambition ("lofty eyes") or being imressive ("great matters," "profound"). Like my friend said, hear God and just do what He tells you.

Lord, I want to do just and only that; to hear You and to do what you've told me to do. Wean me from my need for affirmation and teach me contentment through obedience so that my soul would be calm and quiet.

December 17, 2008

Life at 75 MPH

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Contemporary English Version)
2 Then the LORD told me:
"I will give you my message
in the form of a vision.
Write it clearly enough
to be read at a glance.
3 At the time I have decided,
my words will come true.
You can trust what I say
about the future.
It may take a long time,
but keep on waiting--
it will happen!

I don't know why I don't spend more time in Habakkuk. It's a rich, little book. Very readable for a minor prophet and so many foundational concepts contained in it. I also wonder if every December 18 I so a life journal entry on these same verses? (I should check my archives).

As a pastor the holidays are a time of reflection and preparation for the start of a new year. In this season, I've not yet had the time to really get away to hear God abut what he has for the church I serve in 2009, but I'm geting tastes of it. What I need to do is to take the time to capture all these thoughts, allow them to become clear through prayer and prepare to lead our church on the journey He has for us. I've already spent time getting ready for this; reading some books that stir my heart, meeting with friends & leaders who challenge me. Snce August I really feel that this year at New Life is all about "making disciples." There's a lot of Christians, but not many actual "Christ-followers" (see Jesus: "You're my disciples if you do what I command you...," etc.)

Now it's one thing to say it, but it's another to communicate it; to really help people understand where we're going and how we're going to get there. That's why the CEV spoke to me in it's translation today, "Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance." People's lives are rush by so fast, like traffic on the freeway. So this vision for our church has to be "caught on the fly." Like a billboard, the vision has to have a simple and clear message. Like a road sign, the vision has to point people in a specific direction. Like the sound of an alarm, people have to understand what the sound means and how to respond. This is my challenge over the remaining weeks in 2008. And if I do my part of writing it down, the Lord says I can trust Him with the future outcome.

Lord, help me hear, help me focus, help me communicate what, where, and how You're leading our church into our future.

February 10, 2009

Worthless

Proverbs 6:12-14 (ESV)
12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord;

What struck me this morning while reading is the term "worthless." It's translated differently in other other versions, but this term I think best defines the kind of person this proverb is speaking about. This is someone who only looks out for themself. The don't bring anything of value to a relationship or community. In fact it's just the opposite - thier life revolves around taking. So they "talk out of both sides of thier mouth" (MSG translation) saying what ever the person they're speaking to wants to hear, or what ever will get them what they want (even if what they want is just attention).

Another trait is the wink. I've been winked at before. It usually start with a statement like, "Now I'm not supposed to be saying this, but if you'll keep it a secret, I'll tell you..." It is a tool of seduction, a "come on" of sorts, that implies or invites an illicit intimacy that doesn't exist.

Then there's the "signal" giver; the person who will always give you up and point you out. This is a dangerous person because the results of thier actions result in your injury. This is also the kind of person who will make promises to you while having thier fingers crossed behind thier back.

Because they have no honor and only look out for themselves, eventually they burn bridges. The only way to keep control then is to turn those around them against each other. This is nothing more than a distraction method intended to shift the attention from them. But thier selfishness destroys community.

I know I'm not this kind of person. What I need to know is if there are people in my life who are. I've not known many people who are intentionally malicious like this. For most people who act worthless is because they feel worthless and are trying to compensate for thier insecurities. The need of self-importance is a destructive force.

Lord, help me to see if there are those in my life who are worthless. Guard my heart from them. Help me protect my family and community from them. Keep me from falling into the trap of self-importance.

January 20, 2010

Who are you to me?

Genesis 20:13 (NKJV)
"...I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Observation:
Despite God's promise and protection, Abraham was still fearful..."they will kill me because of my wife..." This was the second time he told Sarai to refer to him as her brother. How could he ever have a son if he kept giving his wife away as a buy-off to avoid potential conflict?

Application:
I've never liked being introduced to people as "pastor." I've thught that the ttle carried too much baggage. Maybe I've really been fearful of the responsibility it carried. I cannot let the people I am responsible for be exposed just because I'm want to avoid conflict. I will "step up" (as Tabitha says) and be the man.

Prayer:
Lord, help me to walk humbly and confidently in the assignment you've given to me.

February 3, 2010

Hearing God's Voice...literally

Exodus 19:19 (NKJV)
...Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

Observation:
Wow. What would that be like? Not just the "still, small voice," but to hear God's audible response? It was God who said that He was "in the thick cloud, that the people may hear. When I speak with you and believe you forever." (v 9) Not only did God speak to Moses, He came down to meet with him (v 20). yet the people were afraid - "let not God speak to us lest we die." (v 20) 20:21 says that the people stood afar, but Moses drew near to where God was.

Application:
As a leader, the people you are responsible for want to know that you hear from God; they want (and need) to believe you, to trust you. Why? Because most of them are afraid to or unsure that they are able to hear Him for themselves. Our job is two-fold: to hear from Him, and to teach them how to hear from him. The first is to create confidence in people that God speaks. For them to believe it, they have to experience it. That's why it's important for a leader to hear from God, the otcome of which must bear the fruit of God's approval. The second is to model a method - drawing near to God. Who sees me do that? Do I model it?

Prayer:
Lord, let me hear. Help me lead.

February 11, 2010

Prohibition

Leviticus 10:8-10 (NKJV)
Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: 9 “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, 10 that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean,

Observation:
This directive is given after Aaron's sons died while fulfilling their priestly duties, presumably while intoxicated. Thier actions followed thier dedication unto the Lord for their assignment as priests.

Application:
My Mom grew up at a time when Christians avoided alcohol, makeup, and movies. My dad got saved as an adult while in the army and experience a pretty significant change in his lifestyle. This means that while I was growing up we never has any alcohol in our house. Then I grew up. The culture of the church had become much more permissive. The external demonstrations of "holiness" didn't have the same requirements of the past. Certain actions (in my circle of believers) such as cigar smoking, wine tasting, and lager not only became acceptable, but "trendy" as an exercise in christian liberty.

I do believe that we have freedom in Christ. We are not required to live restricted by man-made legalism. Yet there are God-ordained restriction imposed on the life of a believer. And there are old permissions and actions that I can let go of the more I take hold of Christ. As a Christ-follower, I am (we are) a part of a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). And the most important skill that any disciple must have is the ability to distinguish between what is holy and what is not. That skill must be continually applied internally, in evaluating one's self; my motives, choices, and actions. If I take my role as "priest" seriously, there are prohibitions will I choose to live. I cannot afford to be impaired in my ability to make distinctions between what is "clean and unclean, holy or unholy." Whatever impacts my ability to make those moment by moment, life-changing evaluations needs to be not just restricted, but removed from my life. If they are not, it could cost me my life.

Prayer:
Lord, I don't want any part of my life to be impaired. Help me see the things in my life that I am "intoxicated" with, so that I can really walk in freedom and fulfillment.

February 17, 2010

Corporal Punishment

Numbers 20:7-12 (NKJV)
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

God gave Moses instructions on what to do and what He would then do. Moses did what God said...kinda, close enough...and God did what He said he'd do. And then he disciplined Moses.

As a Christian leader, I've contemplated this passage many times. I keep looking for a deeper meaning to the story that what is obvious to me on the surface. But for all my "mining" this text, I keep coming back to this simple thought: Do exactly as your told. When in this situation in a previous setting, God told Moses to strike the rock. In this story, Moses is told to speak to the rock. In both cases the Lord brought water from the rock for the people. As far as anyone could tell, the method worked. I don't know if this was just a matter of neglect on Moses' part to God's instructions, or if he just got excusably carried away in the moment, or what. All I know is this little gaff cost Moses everything.

I think of different ways in which God's purpose is released in individuals via a leader's influence. One leadership style is to strike. For example, as a parent one option for discipline is to use the momentary sting of a spanking to imprint upon a child's mind the significance of thier transgression. Other times, words of correction or encouragement are sufficient to remedy the situation. Know when to implement these different tools to shape a child's life either releases the life within them, or permanently limits them. Leading people can be similar. Some leaders "spank" their subordinates through creating a high demand/high performance culture, which reshapes one's character and life disciplines (e.g. boot camp in the Armed Forces). Other times, words are the leader's tool that bring out or shape the potential (and occasionally the problems) inherent in the lives of the followers. Encouragement as well as confrontation can be equally effective if employed in the right timing and context. If either is wrong, the results can be devastating.

This story reminds me that even when all the circumstances seem to be the same, when I have access to the same tools, and the end result is the same, I still can't default to what I did the last time. Why, especially when the outcome is the same? Because the consequence for the leader is life changing. Following God's specific instruction is the most important thing I can do.

Lord, help me to lead through obedience, not presumption.

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